Love Casts Out Fear

Joan Oviatt, "Love Casts Out Fear", New Era, June 1983, 31


A Readers’ Theater

[Parts are divided among ten readers. Readers 1 through 5 are male. Readers A through E are female. The parts may be arranged, however, to incorporate a greater or lesser number of participants. Music from the theme song “Love Casts Out Fear” may be played as background music where appropriate.]

Reader 1: A small child, put to bed, looks about his room yet cannot see. All is dark—dark as a beetle’s back, a raven’s wing, or the bottom of a well.

Reader A: Dark as a fairy-tale forest or the inside of Jonah’s whale.

Reader 1: Dark as a chimney; dark as coal, shadows, thunder, silence; dark as fear.

Reader A: The child cries out. In a moment, he hears the parent’s voice:

Reader 1: “Everything is all right. Don’t be afraid of the dark. I am here.”

Reader A: As the child grows older, he reads the holy words, “Fear not; for I am with thee.” Now the child understands the words.

Reader B: Her name was Betty June. Just under six feet, she must have been the tallest, toughest girl in the high school sophomore class. She got in fights. She wasn’t very smart.

Reader C: I know, because she was in my sophomore English class.

Reader B: She kept calling everybody else “stupid” or “creep.” Most of the kids stayed away from her.

Reader C: Including me.

Reader B: She had some friends though, because she was so tough.

Reader C: I know, because she was in my gym class right after English. I stayed away from her crowd. One day, after the first month of second semester, we had a big exam in English. I studied hard and when the papers were returned, I had received an A. Afterwards, in the girls’ locker room getting ready for gym class, I was so excited about my success that I started telling my locker mates about the A I got.

Reader B: Suddenly a voice grumbled from behind.

Reader D: “You’re such a creep.”

Reader C: I turned to see Betty June looking down at me.

Reader D: [sullenly] “You’re always bragging, kissying up to the teacher.”

Reader B: Betty June brushed by hard and walked away.

Reader C: In gym class, we were practicing basketball. I was assigned to a team playing opposite Betty June’s team. At one point, I was guarding the basket while Betty June dribbled like a bear toward me. She knocked me to the floor as if I hadn’t been there and made her shot. But before she stalked away, she grumbled down at me.

Reader D: [sullenly] “Keep outa my way!”

Reader C: And I did keep out of her way. I disliked Betty June.

Reader B: People dislike those who intimidate and threaten them. But in church we were always learning about charity.

Reader C: And besides, my conscience bothered me. Valentine’s Day was coming up. I bought valentine cards with cute sayings for some of my friends. And I decided [pause] I’d give one to Betty June, too. At least the Lord would know I tried. The day came. I got to English class early. I thought, “What if it offends her?” Then I thought, “What’s the worst she can do to me? She can pound me into the ground, that’s what. But maybe being pounded into the ground isn’t as bad as letting myself be intimidated.”

Reader B: Finally Betty June came into the room.

Reader C: My throat felt dry. My scalp tingled as if my hair would stand on end. My hands felt ice cold and my palms sweaty, as if I would turn to rubbery water any minute. I felt scared, but I told myself that being scared is a whole lot safer if nobody knows it. I walked stiffly to Betty June’s desk and sputtered, “Here, this is for you.” Class was starting. So I quickly, and with relief, sat down. Through the corner of my eye, I saw Betty June open the envelope and look at the card. Then she placed it open at the top of her desk. After class I started out the door and into the hallway on my way to gym, when I felt a tall figure walk up beside me.

Reader D: [awkwardly] “You’re not mad at me or nothing.”

Reader C: “Uh, why should I be mad?”

Reader D: “ ’Cause I bumped you or something.”

Reader C: “No, uh, I’m not mad.”

Reader B: Scared maybe, but mad, no.

Reader C: But I didn’t say that, only thought it.

Reader D: “Did you get that assignment Miss Phelps gave us for next week?”

Reader C: “You mean writing a theme using at least ten similes? Yeah, I think I understand what she wants.”

Reader D: “Do you think maybe you wanna look at mine when I do it? I mean, I don’t know if I can do it right.”

Reader C: “Sure. I’d be happy to help. When do you want to get together?”

Reader D: “How about maybe Saturday?”

Reader C: “Saturday’s fine, in the afternoon. See, Saturday morning our church has an activity and service project. Would you like to come?”

Reader B: Not everyone responds easily. But most do when trust is placed in the Savior’s advice, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Reader C: Because most of the time my neighbor is like me. It takes trust.

Reader 2: The story is told of the man and the pole.

Reader B: A man clung precariously to a flagpole, the only thing saving him from a certain fall off the roof of a building.

Reader 5: A crowd gathered below, and many cried out encouragement.

Reader E: “Hang on! Hang on till help comes.”

Reader B: The flagpole began to bend under the man’s weight.

Reader 5: “Hang on!” cried the crowd. “Help is coming.”

Reader B: The flagpole continued to bend.

Reader E: “Hang on. Try,” came the cries.

Reader 5: But, alas, the man let go of the flagpole.

Reader B: His would-be rescuers, the ambulance attendants and firemen, were just at that moment arriving on the scene. As they gently raised the bruised and battered man from the ground, those around asked him:

Reader E: “Why? Why did you let go of the pole?”

Reader B: The man raised his head and replied:

Reader 5: “I was afraid. I was afraid the pole would break.”

Reader 2: Sometimes doing what is right, what will save us, is hard. Sometimes it’s out of style. We’re afraid what friends will think. And sometimes we must realize there’s more to be lost not standing up for what we believe than otherwise.

Reader 5: A young seaman was on his first voyage. At night, he longed to continue his family-taught habit of kneeling in prayer.

Reader 3: But he feared the ridicule such a practice might receive from his mates. Prayer was sacred to him, not to be laughed at.

Reader 5: When he felt the others were quietly settled in, the young man silently slipped to his knees beside his bunk. Shortly after he had done so, a seaman laughed out:

Reader 2: “Look at the boy praying!”

Reader 5: While at the same time flinging his shoe. The shoe hit the young man on the side of the head. The young man braced himself for further harassment, for he heard one of the tougher seamen, a man called Dicks, muttering angrily. Dicks threatened the loud, unruly, older seaman and the situation was quieted.

Reader 3: The following night, fearing more disapproval, the young man slipped into his bunk, making no effort to pray. He soon felt a large hand on his shoulder and turned to see Dicks, who muttered:

Reader 4: “Are ya a coward? You think I’m going to fight for you and be disgraced? Say your prayers like a man!”

Reader A: A small child, put to bed, stares into the darkness around him. As the moon shines behind a dark cloud, outlining form and defining denser spots, so too does absorbed light, faint lingering illumination, outline ill-defined forms and shapes. Horrible imaginings set flight in childhood fancy and, given pseudo-dimensions by adult-whispered realities, fill the room.

Reader 1: Barely perceived forms become misshapen bears, immense hunched reptiles, fantastically fearful faces, one-eyed embodiments of tummy aches.

Reader A: The child rises from his bed.

Reader 1: He touches the bear and it becomes—a chair.

Reader A: He strokes the reptile, which becomes a draped robe.

Reader 1: The one-eyed beast is the dresser mirror, and the myriad little monsters become shoes, toys, boxes, at his touch.

Reader A: By the light of knowledge, rather than the light of day, the child sleeps without fear. As the child grows older, he reads from 2 Peter 1:19 [2 Pet. 1:19]:

Reader 1: “We have also a more sure word … whereunto … take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.”

Reader A: Now the child understands the words.

Reader B: An ancient Arabian fable tells the story of a traveler who met the great and deadly Plague going into the city of Cairo, Egypt. Their conversation went thus:

Reader 5: “Oh, Mighty Plague, bringer of disease, why do you go into Cairo?”

Reader B: The Plague answered with wind and destruction in its voice:

Reader D: “I come to kill 3,000 people. I come to take 3,000 lives.”

Reader B: Weeks passed. Again the traveler met the Plague on his return journey and said:

Reader 5: “Oh, Plague, you told me you would kill 3,000, yet you killed 30,000—people 30,000 instead.”

Reader B: And the Plague answered back:

Reader D: “No. I killed but 3,000. The rest died of fright.”

Reader 2: Lack of understanding can make us suffer inwardly.

Reader E: When people are different from me, sometimes I don’t know how to react. When I was a child, mama used to tell me not to stare or point at people who were different. And when I grew older, if I saw someone coming toward me who had a limp, or no arm, or a purple scar or whatever, I’d look the other way. Or if I had to be close to someone who talked funny or was really old, I’d look at him and smile nervously, because that seemed to be the sophisticated thing to do. But I wouldn’t know what to say. So I’d just smile and feel dumb. Then one time, when I was serving as Laurel class president, a new family moved into the ward. They had a daughter my age, Cheri. Cheri was in a wheelchair. She’d been in a car accident and had brain damage. She wasn’t intellectually retarded, but she couldn’t talk like everyone else. When she first came to our Mutual class, I was real big about it. I practically shouted at her to make sure she understood, [loud and enunciating] “We sure are glad to have you here.” Then she answered back with what looked like a smile, and struggling for each word:

Reader C: “I … am not … deaf … or … or … dumb.”

Reader E: She kind of nodded and smiled again. And I smiled back. But I still didn’t know how to treat her or how to talk to her. A couple of weeks later, I was having a party at my house. I invited all the girls from my Laurel class, except Cheri. I didn’t invite her because I was embarrassed, I was afraid. I didn’t know what to do with a girl in a wheelchair at my party. She’d probably need a nurse I thought, or else we’d all sit around feeling sorry for her and I’d be embarrassed in front of my friends. I don’t think she ever found out she’d been left out, but when I saw Cheri the next Sunday, I smiled extra big to make up for it. Then it happened. Testimony meeting came. I saw Cheri’s mother get the microphone from the deacon. Then she handed it to Cheri whose wheelchair was in the aisle. For a moment I thought, “How can Cheri do that? Isn’t she embarrassed for herself because she can’t talk well? Won’t the whole congregation be uncomfortable for her?” Then Cheri started to talk. I felt nervous. But I listened as she spoke:

Reader C: “And … I … am … thankful … for the … kids … in Mutual. … I … was … afraid … they … would not … accept … me. But they … are … my friends.”

Reader E: I felt guilty. Because I’d been nice to Cheri, but I hadn’t really been her friend. Cheri went on to tell a little about her accident and how hard it was to change her way of life, but that Heavenly Father had blessed her with strength and she had grown to know herself. I began to imagine myself in Cheri’s place, how I would feel, how I would cope. I began to understand her. And the funny thing is, when I understood, I wasn’t embarrassed. When I understood, I wasn’t afraid.

Reader D: Fear, oh fear, why do we crawl? With the valiant we would run but fear to fall.

Reader B: Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote:

Reader 2:

Some of your hurts you have cured,
And the sharpest you still have survived,
But what torments of grief you endured
From evils which never arrived!

Reader 1: A small child, put to bed, gazes into hollow darkness.

Reader A: A darkness possibly filled with airy, whispered harms, silently hissing slithers, and babbling ghosts of terrors past.

Reader 1: The child, with innocent trust, speaks to the darkness:

Reader A: “You will not hurt me. Uncertainty is as often kind as not. You must be my protector.”

Reader 1: The darkness dares not argue with innocence.

Reader A: Love casteth out fear.

Reader E: A youth asked his teacher if he should study self-defense.

Reader 2: “By all means. Study self-defense.”

Reader E: Answered the teacher.

Reader 3: “But which method of self-defense should I study?”

Reader E: Asked the student.

Reader 3: “Should I study boxing, or karate, or wrestling, or kung fu, or fencing, or judo, or what?”

Reader 2: “Begin your training with Solomon’s defense.”

Reader E: Advised the teacher.

Reader 3: “What is Solomon’s defense?”

Reader 2: “The 15th chapter of Proverbs, verse one: ‘A soft answer turneth away wrath.’” [Prov. 15:1]

Reader 1: And sometimes a soft question turneth away wrath.

Reader 3: My dad and I used to fight all the time. Anytime I wanted anything or wanted to do something, I’d always give all my reasons because I was afraid dad would say no. And he always did. Then once, when I argued with dad and he said no, I went to mom. All she said was:

Reader D: “Why didn’t you ask him?”

Reader 3: “I did ask him, mom. I just told you what happened.”

Reader D: “You told me you argued with him. But you didn’t ask him. If you treat your father as if he’ll argue, he’ll argue. Next time, simply ask him.”

Reader 3: It sounded so simple it seemed stupid. But I tried. I stopped defending myself as if I didn’t deserve it, and he was more positive, too.

Reader C: Failure is an attitude. When we fall on our faces, we may allow fear of failure to cripple us, or we may conquer.

Reader 2: A legend tells that when William the Conqueror first landed on the slick soil of the English shore, he slipped, falling on his face.

Reader C: His followers might have taken it as an omen of failure, fearing to go on.

Reader 2: But William the Conqueror, accustomed to looking at life through the perspective of courage, grasped the soil in his fists, stood and cried:

Reader 4: “Thus do I take possession of England! I take it with both hands.”

Reader 1: As the child grows he learns that faith in his Heavenly Father’s care …

Reader A: … knowledge and understanding of his fellowmen …

Reader 1: … and an attitude of charity within will overcome all fear. The child reads the words of light:

Readers 1 & A: 1 John 4:18: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear.”

Reader A: And the child understands the words.

[The song “Love Casts Out Fear” is sung.]

[illustration] Illustrated by Shauna Mooney